Friday, 1 July 2022

WSTCC 2022 - Rd 9 And Now England are World 50+ Champions As Well!

Seniors' World titles are obviously like London buses, because one day after the first (sorry, I can't count the Women's 50+ gold medal, when they were the only entrants) along comes a second, and this time its the big one, the Open 50+ Championship.

England 1 - World 50+ Champions (l-r) GMs Emms, Hebden, Adams, Short and Arkell

Needing only a 2-2 draw in the last round against 9th ranked Canada, there was an immediate boost when IM David Cummings, who started life as a Welshman, was not well enough to play Mickey Adams and England instantly led 1-0. Anyone who saw Mickey in action at this tournament knows that would have been the result of the game if he had turned up, anyway. Team captain John Emms took a draw on Board 4, leaving England tantalisingly close to the finishing line. I don't know who brought home the bacon first, but both Nigel Short and Mark Hebden won convincingly to secure a 3.5-0.5 match win, and the World team title. The USA also had an easy final round win to secure the silver, while Italy won the bronze after beating Georgia. 

England 2 had an excellent, albeit rather fortunate, 3-1 over Germany 1 to finish in a superb 6th place, while England Women finished 13th; England 3 17th and England 4 21st - in each case either matching or exceeding their seeding.

Wrapping up the final positions in the 65+ event, England 1 (with John Nunn rested) lost their final match 1.5-2.5 against top seeds Israel 1, who thereby managed to finish third, ahead of Germany 2 and France on game points. Germany 1 meanwhile took the silver medals, and my team, England 2, ended up in 13th place (having been seeded 12th) after seeing off Ireland 3.5-0.5 in Round 9. Guess who dropped the half point? Yes, it was me, bringing my score to +1 -1 = 6, and a TRP almost exactly in line with my rating. Why did I bother, I wonder?  At least I didn't catch covid!

England 1 - World 65+ Champions (l-r) Nunn, Stebbings, Povah, Snape, Littlewood

Latvia Women took the women's title after finishing 1 pt ahead of their only rivals, Germany. Somehow, in a field of only 20 teams, these two never played each other, which hardly seems correct.

Latvian Women - World 65+ Women's Champions. WGM Tamara Vilerte, who drew with me, at far left

Germany Women - World 65+ Women's Silver Medallists. WIM Annett Wagner-Michel, who lost to me, at far left, but can't bear to look

It was a really good event. A few more teams would have been useful, and some air conditioning and a pool wouldn't have gone amiss at the hotel, but you can't have everything I suppose, and it was a great experience to be part of 2 (alright 3 if we must) gold medal performances from England. The team/squad spirit was absolutely excellent and Nigel Povah did a brilliant job as the Manager, as well as managing to find time to play in a World Championship winning team. There were Board prizes galore for England players, with Mickey, Nigel, Mark, and Keith all getting golds for the 50+ team, and John and Paul doing the same in the 65+ event.

The final word goes to Nigel Short. Always leave them with a laugh!

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

WSTCC 2022 - Rds 7 & 8 - England 65+ are World Champions!

It was a very strange day yesterday in Acqui Terme, but at the end of it, the England 1 65+ team had established an unassailable lead and had become World Team Champions with a round to spare.  But first, I need to round up the unfinished business of Round 7, which I left after my very quick draw against Danish team Skvat. (Which Google translates for me as either jellyfish or wimp!) Regrettably no-one else could manage more than a draw, and as we didn't all manage that, the match was lost 2.5-1.5. Such is life.

But there was far better news in the upper echelons of each tournament. In the 65+ section, England 1 kept its 1 point lead over Germany with a narrow 2.5-1.5 win over Hungary. John Nunn - inevitably! - scored the decisive win, but it seemed for much of the round that Paul Littlewood and Nigel Povah would win as well, so the final score was actually a bit disappointing. Germany 1 beat Israel 1 by the same score in the other top match, so there was no change at the top of the leaderboard, with England staying 1 point ahead. Meanwhile, in the 50+ section, England 1 took advantage of a friendly pairing by beating Still Active NL 3.5-1.5, though Mickey Adams, who has looked unstoppable in recent rounds, was surprisingly held to a draw by the Dutch IM, Piet Peelen. USA scored a strong 3-1 win over Georgia (or Georgia Winery Khareba to give them their full name) but fell another half game point behind, so that at the end of the round, England's game point lead had gone up to 2.5.

And so to yesterday's penultimate round. My team had another disappointing day, only drawing 2-2 against Norway's Golden Oldies team, with yet another draw for me. Nothing more to say. But it was all action on the top boards - even where there was no action! Because Switzerland turned up to play England 1 in the 65+ section with just 1 player, the rest of the team having gone down with covid! Apparently in the Olympiad this would have meant a 4-0 win for England, but there was no such rule in place here, and the Swiss Board 1 wanted to play. But in the circumstances John Nunn didn't, so the match went to us by 3-1 without a single move being played. So all eyes were now on the Germany 1 v Germany 2 match, where the German strategy of splitting its strength virtually equally between the two teams came home to bite them in the proverbials, as GM Meister beat GM Knaak on top board to win the match for Germany 2. Which meant that England 1 now led the field by 3 match points and couldn't be caught. So today's final round match - in which they have at last been paired against top seeds Israel 1 - is irrelevant for us, though the Israeli's can win a bronze medal if results go their way.

And covid intervened, potentially decisively, in the 50+ section too, as Hungary defaulted on bottom board against USA in the top match. But despite this handicap the mighty Magyars rose to the challenge and secured a 2-2 draw. with Jozsef Horvath downing Gregory Kaidanov on Board 1, and in fact the Americans were grateful to share the points as another Horvath, Peter, came very close to winning against Igor Novikov on Board 3. And so it was the US which blinked first, as England took full advantage of this lapse with a 2.5-1.5 win over the strong Georgian team. Mickey Adams won with a strong kingside attack against GM Sturua on Board 1 and Keith Arkell beat the legend that is former Women's World Champion Nona Gaprindashvili on Board 4. Nigel Short's draw on Board 2 meant that John Emms loss against Bagaturov didn't matter too much. And at the end of the day England 1 was a clear match point ahead of the USA, with the added bonus of 3 game points advantage. By my reckoning, this means that a 2-2 draw against Canada today will mean another English gold medal. Nothing can go wrong now, surely???

My tournament ends with a match against Ireland. It would be nice to win another game and finish with a plus score, but my form here does not make that an especially likely scenario. Nevertheless, there should be plenty to celebrate at tonight's England reception and the prize giving. Two World titles already in the bag (Open 65+ and Women's 50+) and the very strong likelihood of the most prestigious of them all, the Open 50+, will be added to the haul. It's an early start tomorrow for my probably fraught return journey, so my final report will have to wait till Friday when I'm back home. Where I intend to stay for some time!!

Monday, 27 June 2022

WSTCC 2022 - Rds 6 & 7

What's that I hear you say? How can there already be a Round 7 report when the games only started 55 minutes ago? Quite easily, I respond, when you have the fighting spirit of a butterfly. I didn't instigate my 10 move draw (though to be strictly accurate, I only played 9 moves) against my Danish opponent, but I didn't have to think too long about accepting - 1) I was Black; 2) We had almost identical ratings; 3) The heatwave has returned; 4) I haven't been sleeping very well; and 5) as I already admitted, I have the fighting spirit of a butterfly. Of course, in an ideal world I should have played on (Black already +0.5), but as I'm sure we can all agree, this is anything but an ideal world!

I tried much harder yesterday against a higher rated German opponent from Bielefeld, but with the same outcome. I was clearly better but despite his lousy pawn structure and bad bishop, there were no entry points intro his position in the ending. And in fact all 4 games in this match were drawn, so it hasn't - so far - been a very exciting two days for England 2. Though my team mates may change that as the afternoon unfolds.

But there was certainly high excitement for the two England 1st teams. In the 65+ event, a crushing win for Paul Littlewood was followed by a very assured victory for John Nunn over IM Lederman (of Israel 2) which I interpreted as long overdue, albeit vicarious, revenge for my loss against him at the HE Atkins Open in Leicester in 1982! So 3-1 to England 1, who still have a clear 1 point lead ahead of Germany 1, and a pairing today against third place Hungary. Top seeds Israel 1, who somehow managed to lose 2 of their first 3 matches, have finally made it back to the higher boards, and have a crucial match against Germany 1 today.

In the 50+ event, it was once again a case of Mickey Adams to the rescue for England 1, as they edged past a strong Italy team (3 GMs) by 2.5-1.5. Nigel Short got into terrible difficulties against Michele Godena, and duly lost, but Mark Hebden levelled things up against GM garcia Palermo, with John Emms having already drawn. This left Mickey to try and win the match. He was a pawn up in a rook and pawn ending, but opinion was divided whether he could win. about ten moves later it was all over and Mickey had won the game and the match. I must say, he is rather good. I could probably learn a thing or two from him! These heroics earned him a kiss from Nigel Short at dinner, which I am not sure Mickey particularly enjoyed! USA also won by the same score against Iceland - who bizarrely rested their strongest player, so it was no change at the top of the leader board, with the two teams still tied on match points, but England 2 game points better off. Today England have what seems a very generous pairing against 10th seeds, Still Active NL, while USA lock horns with third seeds Georgia, who are two match points off the pace.

John Nunn (5.5/6) and Mickey Adams (4.5/5) have been in imperious form so far, and seem a class apart from anyone else in their respective tournaments. It's rather good having them in our teams!

Saturday, 25 June 2022

WSTCC 2022 - Rd 5

I bring news of great joy which will reverberate across the land, even to the furthest corners of Windy Arbour, Dalehouse Lane and Beehive Hill. I have now won a game at the World Old People's Team Championships! In the words of the Iron Lady, "Just rejoice at that news!"

And not just any old win, but against yet another titled player (there's more of them here than you can shake a stick at - and that's just in our hotel!), and two time East German Women's Champion, Annett Wagner-Michel. And - I kid you not - I played quite well. Not very well, of course, but I'll happily settle for quite well any time. Moreover, there was a crushing team victory as well, with England 2 scoring a 3.5-0.5 win over the German Women's team. Having now faced both the contenders for the Women's 65+ World title, my money is on the Latvians who currently hold a one point lead over the Germans.  It is to be hoped that they do get paired together, at some stage, though. And by the way, at this point we should celebrate the victory of the English team for becoming World Champions in the 50+ category ...... where they are the only participants. Where are the Mongolian Ladies when you need them, I wonder?

It was another good day for the top English teams. In the 50+ event Mickey and Mark won with Black to give us a 3-1 win over Hungary, and a critical success for John Nunn against GM Vaisser edged us home 2.5-1.5 against France in the 65+ tournament. Which means we lead in the 50+ event on game points from the USA, and by a clear point from Germany 1 in the 65+. Next up in Rd 6, its England v Italy in the 50+ and England v Israel 2 in the 65+, while my England 2 team face the German club team Rochade Bielefeld. Though I cannot divulge whether I will be playing in this match or not! 

The temperatures have actually cooled down a bit the last two days, and yesterday there was a storm/downpour of biblical proportions during play - a roof leak caused the England 1 v France match to be suspended. Clearly they have put the top matches at the wrong end of the hall, as we bunnies on the low boards were dry as a bone! All of which has reminded me - you lucky people - of this song!

Friday, 24 June 2022

WSTCC 2022 - Rds 3 & 4

Well, don't think I'm going to start off by apologising for missing a day or two. If you knew how much aggro I have to go through (hopeless hotel wi-fi) to post one of these reports, you'd realise that its actually a miracle there's been any posts from Acqui Terme at all.

Anyway, here's a brief summary of what happened in Rds 3 and 4. If I can remember that far back. My team finally won a game on Wednesday - 3-1 against A team from nearby Alessandria. Kevin Bowmer and Peter Wood won with the White pieces, and Stewart Reuben and I drew with Black. Though I should have lost, but my very pleasant opponent took a repetition in a completely winning position, after I over-pressed. lesson learnt? Probably not. Yesterday I was "rested" and went to Turin on the train for some sight-seeing. In my absence we lost 3.5-0.5 against a strong Switzerland team, who had all titled players, despite resting their top board. Today I am back in the fold, when we will play Germany Women.

Meanwhile the serious chess has been going on at the far end of the tournament hall from where we have been playing. And its pretty good news. England 1 are tied for the lead in both the 50+ and 65+ competitions. In the oldies section, England 1 followed a 2-2 draw against Germany 2 with a 3.5-0.5 win over Germany 1. (No, I can't figure that out either!) John Nunn wiped out GM Rainer Knaak yesterday, but we already know that he has a problem facing English opposition, so that could hardly come as a surprise. Today its England 1 v France as the only two teams on 7/8 go head to head - Nunn v Vaisser on top board. The top seeded Israeli's have lost 2 matches already.

In the 50+ tournament there have been some heavyweight match ups for England 1 in the last 2 rounds. First it was a 3-1 win over the all GM Icelandic team, with impressive wins for Mickey and Nigel on the top 2 boards, and yesterday there was a nail biting 2-2 draw against the USA. Mark Hebden lost against Novikov, but Mickey saved the day with a brilliant endgame win over Gregory Kaidanov. Well worth checking this out to see Mickey conjure up passed a and h pawns from nowhere in a knight ending. real chess artistry and mastery. Another tough match against Hungary today, but with Mickey and Nigel on the top 2 boards, I somehow think its the Magyars who will be the more nervous. And as Mickey said to me at breakfast yesterday, "Mind if I join you?" Sorry to so shamelessly name drop. Though I may still share my 5 second conversation with Nigel in a future post.

But enough about the chess - here's a few pictures from my visit to the Royal Palace in Turin yesterday to get the culture vultures amongst you (Bernard C and Roy!) excited!

A very strange paining of a future Savoy king as a child - with a very small person

Van Dyck's famous painting of the Children of Charles I

That Botticelli wasn't ashamed to rework his ideas, was he? Birth of Venus, anyone?!

OK, that'll do for today. Its the rest day tomorrow, so hopefully I will be able to provide another update. But as at least 2 players in the event have now tested positive for Covid, it may not be all good news.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

WSTCC 2022 - Rd 2

Another day, another GM for me! Well, OK, if you want to split hairs, today it was a WGM, but really - must we get bogged down in the details?  I was pressing - or at least I thought I was pressing - for most of the game, but at the crucial moment I overlooked a tempo winning move for my opponent which enabled her to set up a rock solid defence of my big attack against f7. So only a draw, and England 2 went down 2.5-1.5 against the Latvian Women's team. Not a good result. My opponent beat Nona Gaprindashvili a few years back, and has been rated as high as 2236, so her current rating of just 1978 scarcely does her justice. Two of the other boards were drawn, but Geoff James lost with Black on Board 2 which decided the match. Better news of England 1, who beat a German team 3.5-0.5, while top seeds Israel were going down to Hungary in the top match.

In the 50+ section, it was England 1 v England 2, and the match went the expected way, as both John  Emms and Nigel Short won, but Glenn Flear held Mickey Adams to a draw in an all GM battle on top board. When I left a few minutes ago, Mark Hebden was turning the screw against Chris Duncan with an extra pawn and a safer king, so I expect it will end up as 3.5-0.5 to the first team. No idea how any of the other top matches went, but England Women (already World Champions as the only female side in the event!) had a very big win over the Oslo club that played England 1 yesterday, and England 3 were in a titanic struggle against USA 5 Brothers (a misnomer this year as there are only 4 brothers present!). The match could go either way with 2 games left.

Oh well, nothing for it but to go and drown my sorrows with a few bottles of Moretti!

Monday, 20 June 2022

World Seniors Team Chess Championships 2022 - Round 1

 Or WSTCC 2022 as we will now call it!

Well, I have just hot footed it (literally - its way over 30 degrees here) from the blissfully air conditioned playing hall in Acqui Terme (Italy) to my definitely not air conditioned hotel room in order to break the news that ..... I lost. But as I was playing the great John Nunn (with the Black pieces too) this will surprise no-one. It was actually level, but difficult, out of the opening (good prep by me!) and then I gradually got outplayed, as he angled for an advantageous ending while I tried to avoid being mated on h7. I avoided the mate, but he got his ending advantage and that was all she wrote. Though in fact v England 2 went down only by 2.5-1.5 to England 1, as Geoff James drew against Paul Littlewood after sacking a piece, and Kevin Bowmer won a remarkable game with Black against Tony Stebbings. Tony had 3 pieces for a queen, plus a powerful passed c pawn, but Kevin played a terrific game to win after a massive kingside pawn storm. Ian Snape won the match for England 1 on bottom board, when Stewart Reuben lost on time in a lost looking position.

In the 50+ section, England 1 beat Oslo Schakselskap 4-0. There were quick wins for Messrs Hebden and Arkell with White, while Nigel Short won a long minor piece ending on Board 1 (Mickey Adams was rested today) and John Emms won after pointing all his pieces at the Norwegian players king.

The organisers are rather slow posting the results, so that's about all I have to offer by way of hard results. In due course, you can find out the details yourselves here (50+) and here (65+).

There are supposedly some live games each day (top two matches in each section) but I can't find them on Chess24. So instead you'll have to make do with a couple of snaps. Always assuming the very dodgy hotel wi-fi can cope with the heavy task of uploading them!

The Centro Congressi, Acqui Terme

Hopefully I'll post every day - but its so hot and enervating, and the technology is so iffy,  I can't guarantee anything!

The playing hall - no GMs visible in this picture!

Friday, 10 June 2022


At the recent "4 Trophies dinner" at The Gauntlet, it was great to welcome again our most long distance paid-up member, Bruce Holland, who had travelled up from deepest Herefordshire to join in the celebrations. Bruce, of course, was one of the original movers and shakers in getting the current incarnation of Kenilworth Chess Club up and running in 1975 - and 47 years on he still has a great affinity with the club, despite the miles that now separate him from the rest of us.

In my early years with the club, it was something of a ritual for Bruce to turn up on Thursday nights at The Royal Oak, and later The Gauntlet, at an hour when most people were thinking of leaving. His arrival, at 10.30 or later, was invariably accompanied by a general chorus of "Brooooce", albeit not with quite the same passion as Mr Springsteen's fans usually muster.

Now this is all well and good, as Bruce is a legend of KCC and thoroughly deserves a bit of website appreciation, but what really prompted this article was the fact that his return to Kenilworth was actually a rather remarkable coincidence. Because on two occasions he had recently been thrust centre stage of my imagination, by a couple of out of the blue happenings.

Firstly, there I was on holiday in Scotland, in search of my Celtic forefathers, when what do I see but Bruce's name - if not up in lights, then up in stone.

Dunfermline Abbey - the final resting place of Robert the Bruce

But something like that can obviously be easily explained. the next incident most certainly can't. Trundling up the M5 the other day, my wife and I stopped off at the decidedly upmarket Gloucester Services. Idly browsing the shop - and recoiling in horror at the prices - I was brought to a complete standstill by a wholly unbelievable sight. Which I now share with you!

Any further comment from me would be superfluous

You couldn't make it up if you tried! "The chances of anything coming from Mars" may well be "a million to one", but the odds on finding a display of these three tins must be several trillion to one. Proof, if any were still needed, that Bruce is no ordinary guy!

I'm not sure what Bruce's favourite Bruce song is, so I have chosen for him. How about a bit of Waiting on a Sunny Day, live in Hyde Park in 2009?in 

Sunday, 22 May 2022

Kenilworth Invaded by GMs!

After hosting the English Seniors' Championships at the beginning of May, Kenilworth has also been the venue for the English Open and Women's Championships over the last four days. It can safely be said that GM Mark Hebden likes Kenilworth, as after winning the English Over-50's title (and £500) he has now followed up by winning the English Championship (and £2,000) - going undefeated with a 12.5/14 score over the two events.

The loneliness of the long distance Grand Master. Mark Hebden prepares for his Rd 3 game against FM Adam Ashton - 1-0 (30) (Banbury IM James Jackson in the background)

Two other legendary English GMs were also competing in the event. Keith Arkell finished in a tie for 4th with 4.5/7, while Peter Wells scored 4/7 to finish in a tie for 8th.

Before the start of the final round - Mark Hebden v Keith Arkell. Drawn in 12 moves. At left is IM James Jackson who won his final game to finish clear second (£1.200!) with a fantastic 5.5/7 score. 

Peter Wells (right) in play against IM Richard Pert in Rd 3 (Draw in 23 moves)

At the latest weekend, the only Kenilworth participation - inevitably! - was our pocket rocket Jude, who made an eminently respectable 3/7, but missed a couple of opportunities to rack up even more points. Not bad for a 12 year old! Meanwhile, pre-pandemic visitor to The Gauntlet - and another graduate of the CCA - Elis Dicen, finished 5th in the English Women's Championships, playing a decisive role in the final standings by beating tournament leader Alaa Gamal in Rd 7, which saw the title go to WIM Lan Yao. Earlier in the month, there had been more Kenilworth representation, when Ed scored 3.5/7 in the English 65+ Championships. 

Here's hoping the Holiday Inn continues to be a major venue for English chess events. Who knows? I might even play in one of them! Unless I'm away on holiday, again.

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Oh, What a Night!

Oh, what a night.
Late April, twenty twenty two

Yes indeed - Leamington League Cup Finals night at Olton. Let history remember the date - Tuesday, April 26th - and the venue - Tyseley Working Men''s Club (the Wembley of the local chess world). For on that date, and in that place, KCC picked up two of the three trophies on offer (the Open KO Cup and the Under 8750 Cup) and went down narrowly in the third (the Under 1600 Cup). Bringing the total number of KCC triumphs for the season to four, as the Leamington League Division 1 and Coventry League KO Cup titles had already been annexed. And if anyone has forgotten how close we went to also winning the Coventry League Division 1 trophy, just refresh your memories by reading the Blog post of March 18th!

Where to start? How about with a pictorial record of the 14 valiant KCC men who were in action on this epic night.

From left to right: Andrew, Phil, Rod, Mark, Bernard (partially obscured - for the first time in his life, I expect!), Jude, Andy, Billy, Joshua, Roy, Chris, Hector, Patrick, Ben.
(With Andrew a clear winner of the Best Turned Out prize!)

Naturally, my attention was mainly focussed on my own game against Alan Lloyd, against whom I have a dreadful record (played 9, drawn 4, lost 5!). But I did notice that Andrew had scored a convincing win over Bruce Baer on the next board to me; that Jude was winning against Gary Hope and Andy had drawn early against Richard Reynolds. So, from a position of slight advantage I was able to offer a draw secure that we were winning the Open KO Cup match against Olton comfortably. Little did I know, though, that Jude had had a brainstorm and momentarily transformed his winning position into a lost position ..... but thankfully the chess gods were smiling on us and he turned the tables again to secure the win - in the process, surely becoming the youngest ever winner in the League's premier knock-out tournament. This left Joshua able to finish the match with no pressure. He was an exchange down against Mark Cundy but had a wide open White king to attack. However, Mark had a dangerous passed pawn, and in the end Joshua had to take a perpetual check. Nevertheless, an unbeaten 3.5-1.5 win for us, with two White victories and three Black draws (yes, I lost the toss - mea culpa!)

The next match to conclude was the Under 1600 final against Solihull.  Things got off to a great start when Hector continued his remarkable form by notching up a point for us on Board 2, but then things fell apart as both Roy and Patrick went down to defeat (the latter to Kenilworth resident and long time KCC member, Mike Johnson.) Even if Chris had been able to even the scores on Board 4, we would have lost the tie break on the board elimination rule, but the game ended in a draw anyway, and we had lost by 2.5-1.5. A great shame that the team fell at the final hurdle, but Chris and his lads have done the club proud by reaching the final of a competition where we have traditionally only been able to win a tie if we got given the bye. There's also no doubt in my mind that we would have won this match, and the Cup, if we hadn't also reached the U-8750 final which deprived the U-1600 side of Billy, who was eligible for both teams.

But I can finish on a positive note, as at the end of the evening we emerged victorious from a titanic struggle against Banbury in the Under 8750 final. It was a strange match. Ben drew very early against Danut Joian, and team supremo Bernard added another draw into the mix soon after when halving out with Chris Evans. The Banbury strategy for the match was very interesting, with a low rated player on Board 5 and much higher rated players on the other 4 boards to keep under the 8750 total limit. Our strength was much more evenly spread, but it meant we were out-graded on 4 of the 5 boards. Banbury were in effect accepting they would probably lose on Board 5, but if they could score 2.5/4 on the other boards, they would win any tie on board elimination. Rod duly delivered our much needed win against Michael Campling on Board 5, but this was balanced by Mal Waddell beating Billy on Board 4 to level the scores. How Billy lost I don't know, as at one point it looked like he had driven a threshing machine through Mal's position, forcing the White king to c3 and getting a pawn to f2. So the scores were consequently tied, and Banbury just needed a draw on top board to vindicate their strategy and win the match on tie break............

But I must break off the narrative at this point for an important message.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Phil's position in the decisive game against Nathan Manley. He was, I kid you not, about 5 pawns up so I naturally assumed he had sacked a piece and that the game was in the balance. Then I counted the pieces and they were level! So he was just 5 pawns up. Oh yes, and he had a virtual forced mate on the board, as well - or at least the win of humungous amounts of material. Of course, Phil being Phil, it was never going to be that simple, but he did indeed soon add an extra rook to his material advantage, and eventually this proved sufficient to force resignation and win another trophy for Kenilworth. What a hero!!

And so ends a truly momentous season for KCC - surely one of the best in the club's history. 4 trophies; splendid efforts by all our teams; well attended club nights; enthusiastic new members; some fearsomely strong juniors; and a group of solid old timers as well. Enjoy the summer, and when the new season rolls around, just like Jackson, let's "get up and do it again!"

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

By Jupiter, Forgot!

"By Jupiter, forgot! I am weary; yea, my memory is tired. Have we no wine here?"
Coriolanus, Act 1 Scene 9.

But I've remembered now, and so here is the report of last Monday's final Leamington League Division 1 match of the season. Nothing of real importance was at stake, as we had wrapped up the title a couple of weeks back, but there was one last challenge - maintaining our unbeaten league record. And as our Coventry League team had lost its own unbeaten record - and the league title - in the very last game, we really needed to make sure that history did not repeat itself. It was all about pride.

In all our matches this season we have fielded the Three Ps plus AN Other, and this pattern held right to the end, as Messrs Page, Paterson and Pink were joined by the recently rediscovered Andy Baruch. Our opponents were Solihull A, led this year by Don Mason, who had run us mighty close in our earlier encounter and had a victory over Olton to their credit.

Things did not start well. I walked straight into some ferocious opening preparation from Don, and I was already losing/lost by move 10. I didn't expect to make it to move 20, so the fact that mate only arrived on move 34 must be considered something of a moral victory for me. Though, regrettably, moral victories do not count on the match scoreboard. Still, never mind, as Joshua had been winning easily against Paul Roper on Board 3 and looked likely to finish even before me. Wrong! He had reached a rook and pawn ending two pawns up and with 2 connected, passed kingside pawns, when he decided to jettison them to win White's last two queenside pawns.  But this left him with just doubled b pawns of his own, and when Paul managed to get his king back to b1 the draw was inevitable.

So now things looked decidedly dodgy, since Andy B's position on Board 2 against Tony Sadler looked to have gone from very promising to totally lost. I took a look at the board and counted two White pieces and one White rook under attack - try saving all those at once! But somehow he scared Tony into not taking the material, and it ended up in a rook and 4 v rook and 4 ending. Tony was in desperate time trouble, though, and swapped off into a king and pawn ending that might just have held with very precise play, but his clock situation ruled that possibility out and Andy duly queened a pawn and won. His first victory for two years! (Though in fairness, in only his second game!)

Which left the other Andrew in play on Board 2 against Ray Carpenter. He seemed to be winning Black's bishop in a minor piece ending thanks to a passed d pawn, when Ray suddenly created mayhem to get a passed pawn of his own on the b file. For a moment I was in panic, as I thought this pawn couldn't be stopped, but Andrew kept his cool and moved his king away from the path of the pawn, so there were no tempo gaining checks en route to the queening square, and brought his knight back to stop the pawn. This was enough to win, as in order to cause the mayhem, Ray had had to give White another passed pawn on the a file, and his lone bishop couldn't prevent either this or the d pawn from queening.

So not only did we finish unbeaten, but we also finished victorious in the match, squeaking home by 2.5-1.5. Coupled with yet another Olton defeat (0.5-3.5 against Shirley A) the same night, this meant that our final winning margin was a massive 7 points. We dropped only two points all season, when drawing with our B team and Olton A, and ended up with a game point difference of +17. By any measures, this was a comprehensive success!

Massive kudos goes to Andrew, for a stunning performance on Board 2. I, on the other had, need to do considerably better! Joshua's impressive hit rate was slightly affected by him missing out on one game due to an opposition default. Lionel, Jude and Andy didn't do badly either, while Mike kept me company on 50%.

No particular reason for this week's song, though I don't think Poco have ever featured here before, and that omission needs to be remedied immediately!

Friday, 18 March 2022

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

Its been a week of very mixed fortunes in KCC-land, and how it all stacks up in the end depends on whether you are a "glass half full" or a "glass half empty" kind of guy.

Which sort are you?!

At the end of it all, we have two trophies confirmed for the season, but strangely it is the one that got away which will likely live longest in the memory. Proof, if it were needed, that some people will never be totally contented with life.

It all started on Monday, when - in what was scheduled to be a Leamington League Division 1 decider against Olton A - we drew 2-2 in an ultimately unimportant encounter, as Olton had contrived to gift us the title by losing their previous match at Banbury. So all that was at stake was a bit of local pride, and our unbeaten record. It was honours even on the night, but as Olton played without regular Board 1 Phil Holt (get well soon, Phil - I know you're reading this!) maybe they had more reason to be happy. Joshua was our sole winner, seeing off Mark Cundy's King's Gambit in most assured style by quickly transposing into a pawn up minor piece ending. The rarely sighted lesser-spotted Baruch then chipped in with a draw on Board 4 against Gary Hope. In normal circumstances this would have been a disappointing result, but given it was Andy's first game since March 4th 2020 (740 days by my reckoning) it was a minor miracle he even remembered the moves. Andrew followed up with another draw against Bruce Baer on Board 2, after a game in which he was a pawn up for most of the time, only to fall into a perpetual check when the win was in sight. Which left me needing a draw to win the match.  But I was playing Alan Lloyd, against whom I have a record of Played 8, Won 0, Drawn 4, Lost 4. It didn't matter that I got into a rather good position, where I was the only one who had any winning chances, as it was inevitable that I would completely misplay things at several key moments and end up losing a rook and pawn ending after a zillion moves on the increment. Some things are just meant to happen, and me losing to Alan is one of them.

Tuesday evening saw a rather more critical encounter, as we took on Coventry A in the final of the Coventry League KO Cup, a competition we have won once before, in 2018. As we had done the double over Cov A in the League our hopes were high, but things proved to be less straightforward than we might have hoped. All 4 games were still in play late into the evening when we had a massive stroke of good fortune, as Bava Manickam contrived to walk into a one move mate against Mike in a rook and pawn ending. Mike was a pawn up, and assures me he was winning, but mate in one certainly saves a lot of effort, technique and agony for the spectators. As soon as mate appeared on the board, I offered Ed Goodwin a draw on Board 2. I had been in all sorts of trouble a few moves earlier, but thankfully I was let off the hook and it was almost dead level in a double rook and pawns ending when we shared the point. I knew that this essentially assured us of the Cup, as Andrew was a pawn up against Joshua Pink (you'll have noticed how I can't bring myself to be on first name terms only with those KCC players who have split loyalties!) in a rook and 4 v rook and 3 endgame. Andrew then even gave up his extra pawn to make it so drawn that even Joshua Pink couldn't find any excuse to play on. This made Ben's loss against Warwick Scaife on Board 4 irrelevant, as we were going to be winners on board count in the event of a 2-2 tie. The Cup was ours - though I doubt we will see quuite the same scenes as these on the streets of Kenilworth when we bring the trophy home!

And so to Wednesday, and the same 4 were back in action in our postponed Coventry League Division 1 encounter with Warwick Uni A, which had become a title decider - where we had draw odds, as we were 1 point clear of the University team. Now they have a lot of very strong players to draw on, but thankfully they don't often get them all to play, so we went into the match with every chance of securing a first ever Coventry League title. But its the hope that kills you, isn't it?

First blood went to our opponents, and it was a bitter pill to swallow when Mike went down to Simeon Bott on Board 3. Mike had played a typical Rxc3 exchange sac and got a pawn and lots of compensation for it. But the position was very messy, and Mike had a bishop stuck on h8 behind a White pawn on f6. Mike tells me he was winning for about 20 moves, but it was anything but straightforward while that bishop remained stuck. Which it did. Seemingly for eternity. Or check mate as its known. A disastrous result for us, as Mike went from Tuesday hero to Wednesday zero. Still, I remained confident, as Andrew was an exchange for a pawn up on Board 1 against Joe Varley and seemingly cruising to victory, and while I was still down the pawn I had sacked in the opening, I had definite compensation with Black's queen, king's bishop and rook all either back or still on their starting squares at move 30. Somehow I just knew I was going to win!

So when Ben lost a very strange game on Board 4 against Vikas Sajanani, I was still more than hopeful. Ben had a queen against a rook and bishop (and maybe a pawn?) and I had been hoping we weren't losing, but his departure from the room at 100 mph and 100 degrees centigrade told me a different story. Now it was most definitely down to me and Andrew. The first part of the task went well, as the position just got too difficult for the players in my game, and in serious time trouble my opponent, Ivan Nikolov, couldn't defend when I got a pawn all the way to a7. This was a seriously heavyweight game! But something awful had happened in Andrew's game. I thought he was going to double on the seventh rank and deliver mate, but he was scared that White's passed d pawn might queen first, so instead swapped off a pair of rooks and ended up with rook and three (h, f and a) against bishop and three (h, g and a). It seemed like an obvious win, but Andrew had to be careful that when he went active with his rook, the White king couldn't munch the weak Black pawns on h6 and f6 and queen one of his own. I'm pretty sure there was a win if he had brought his king around to attack the White kingside pawns from behind before going after the White a pawn, but in increasingly desperate time trouble he went straight to the a2 pawn with his king and after various captures ended up with a rook against a lone White h pawn - but with the Black king several miles away from the action on a1. By a tempo it was a draw, but knowing that a draw was not good enough, Andrew tried one last trick and instead of sacking his rook, he allowed the White pawn to queen thinking/hoping he could then deliver mate with his rook. Unfortunately, White had one move which both stopped the mate and saved his queen. And he found it. And a few moves later he won the queen v rook ending which had ensued. Heartbreak for Andrew, and for KCC, who had come so close to a first Coventry League Championship. Chess is a harsh mistress.

But never mind. Two out of three is not so awful, is it? Vegetarians please look away now - Meat Loaf is about to be served

Wednesday, 9 March 2022


Well, that was an incredibly painful way to spend three hours, but somehow - at the very last moment - we stumbled across the line to win our Coventry League KO Cup Semi Final against Division 3 side, Coventry E by the required handicap defeating score of 3.5-0.5. But it was an evening of pure agony.

Andrew is exempted from all/any criticism, as he was the only one who played anything like a good game, throwing in plenty of tactics on his way to a convincing win over John Conway on Board 1. John lost on time at the end, but his position had completely gone by then.

But the rest of us. Oh dear, oh dear.

Ben eventually won decisively on Board 4, being oodles of material up against Joshua Rivett, but his opening play looked anything but convincing and I reckon he was in serious danger of being worse for quite a few moves.

Mike then offered a draw against Pablo Kelly on Board 3. His position had been going progressively downhill, as his two bishops looked pretty impotent against a big queenside pawn advance by White. I guess out of desperation he gave up a piece for a couple of pawns, but his young opponent was glad to take the rating points and a draw when they were offered.

But, of course, this then meant I had to win on Board 2 against Dave Filer. From a position where I was absolutely not better at all. And behind on the clock. I have no idea what had gone wrong, as I was almost winning straight out of the opening, but then I kept taking wrong decision after wrong decision. With Dave playing very assuredly, and consistently forcing pieces off the board whenever the opportunity presented itself we ended up in a dead level rook and knight ending. And then he forced the rooks off. It was move 49. It was knight and 4 against knight and 4. There were no passed pawns. It was almost 10.30. And the engine evaluation was 0.00. For all intents and purposes we were going out. And then Dave cracked. I had ramped up the clock pressure as a last try, and he had fallen behind, and at the crucial moment he allowed a trade of knights which gave me a winning king and pawn ending. Phew!

I didn't deserve to win. We didn't deserve to win. But I/we did, and next Tuesday we will play either Rugby A or Coventry A in the final.

No contest for this week's song. It's the only one I could think of that was depressing enough to match the mood of last night!

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Chairman Skis to the Rescue

 What's that coming over the hill, is it a monster?

No. it's the Club Chairman skiing to our rescue!

Fresh from his recent week schussing and slaloming on the slopes in France, he glided to the rescue of our Coventry League team last night, as we nervously edged home 2.5-1.5 against Warwick University R. (Yes, R, but I'm not going to bother explaining that again!) With our top two boards having clearly applied the wrong wax for the conditions, it was our engine room on Boards 3 and 4 which got us over the line to collect another two valuable points in our quest for a first ever League title. A quest which will now go to the last, rearranged match against Warwick Uni A.

Mike got the ball rolling for us with a very convincing win as Black against James Parkinson. White had sacked a knight on f7 but never seemed to have anything for the piece, and Mike wrapped up victory in short order. I was next to finish on Board 2, when sharing the point with Jonathan Fowler. This was a massive relief, as I had suffered the tortures of the damned after going wrong almost straight from the opening. My position was undoubtedly busted, but he went for a loose pawn with the wrong knight and suddenly I was OK in a bishop and knight ending.

I adjourned to analyse with my opponent, and shortly afterwards a clearly happy (dare I say smug?) Chairman emerged from the playing room to announce he had won and so clinched the match for us. This was somewhat surprising news, as he seemed to have been on the defensive for what little of the game I had seen, and at one point I distinctly heard him offer a draw. It was a massive stroke of luck for us that Ansh Batura decided to play on. (This echoes another crucial win for the Chairman earlier this season, when a crude knight fork gave us a draw against Nuneaton A, after Colin Green had also turned down a draw offer. Lightning does strike twice!)

And all this was just as well, because Andrew's inexplicably poor record against students this season continued with a loss to Partha Mulay on Board 1. For once his solid Slav type set up failed to go sproink and he was always rather short of space and counter-play. White clinched the win using two bishops against a bishop and knight to annex a couple of pawns. So its now 4/4 against non-students, but just 2/5 against Warwick Uni this season. With yet another encounter against academia to come. Aaarrgh!!

But for the time being, let's concentrate on the positives from last night's match. Which is where our second tune of the week comes in. (And make sure you admire the action shot of Bernard in full flow at around 32 seconds.)  

BTW, if anyone wants to hear my excellent dyslexic skiers joke, feel free to ask at any club night!

Thursday, 17 February 2022

One More Twofer for the Road

Finally, the seemingly never ending pattern of Monday night Leamington League match and Tuesday night Coventry League match has come to an end. So this is absolutely, positively and definitively the last twofer match report for ........... well, possibly until March 16th. But to commemorate the occasion, I thought I'd throw in a bonus song so that we can hear Boz Scaggs also having one more for the road.

Right, to the week's business. Monday night and we are home to Banbury A just 4 days after they had rather fortuitously edged past our B team by the minimum margin. Who knew that we would now return the compliment? Especially when they arrived with only 3 players, meaning Jude and his Dad had had a wasted journey/evening. But it was hard for me to head too quickly for the moral high ground, as simultaneously in the bar area, our D team was failing to produce even one player to take on visitors Solihull E. Which meant casting the first stone was not really on the cards.

Despite our free point start (for the second match running!) this was to be no walk in the park as all three games were tough encounters. I was (needlessly) worried for Andrew in the opening against Dan Rowan, as he eventually emerged with a solid extra pawn, which was, moreover, passed and supported from behind by a rook. 1-0 I thought, except that soon it was half-half, as Andrew had uncharacteristically blundered his extra pawn away. Then there was a moment when Joshua overlooked a rook sacrifice by Nathan Manley that just won two pawns from nowhere. But in the resultant queen ending, Joshua went checky, checky, checky and managed to win both pawns back, with what I then thought might even be a better position.

Meanwhile I was playing Gary Jackson and was clearly better, with me in total charge of a monster diagonal from a8 to h1. And with the White king sat on g1 it looked like an impossible position to defend. But defend it he did, and after I had missed a couple of wins at one crucial moment I went seriously wrong and there was a near certain draw on the board when Gary could have eliminated my light squared bishop and put an end to all the long diagonal issues. But he missed the moment and soon he was in almost total zugzwang, with his queen, rook and knight all immobilised, meaning he could only shuffle his king from g1 to f1 and back or his bishop from d2 to c1 and back. Still, I hadn't worked out how I was actually going to cash in when he tried to improve his queen's position and found himself having to resign immediately when my own queen jumped into f3 with decisive effect.

Match won, which was just as well, since in trying to avoid perpetual check, Joshua had instead got himself mated by Nathan. So instead of 3-1 and another healthy boost to our already massive game points difference, it was a narrow 2.5-1.5 result, and we had only drawn on the boards actually contested. Still, I would be lying if I didn't admit I loved being the team's match winning hero for once! And before leaving this match, I just want to pass on our best wishes to Paul Rowan of Banbury who has been on the end of a rather nasty bike/car collision recently and is currently out of action, chess wise. Get well soon, Paul.

And so to Tuesday, and a KO Cup Quarter Final against Coventry B (who fielded just the three ex-Kenilworth players!). As our opponents are a Division 2 team, we had to give them a 1.25 handicap start, and so we had to win by at least 3-1 to go through. Thankfully, this meant we could afford one accident, as we suffered just that. Ben had an absolute car crash of a game, being totally wiped out by Margarita Nasibova, who took about 15 minutes for the entire game. All in all this was one of the most one-side games you could ever see - apart from 2 of the others in this same match! On top board Andrew steamrollered Kate Donegan after her Scandinavian went badly off course, while on Board 2 I did much the same to Nigel Morris, who played the opening very well, but then managed to go from a near dead level position on move 16 to resignation 4 moves later.

Now all attention was focussed on the Board 3 encounter between Mike Donnelly and Mike Johnson, which we absolutely had to win. Our Mike amassed a mighty attacking force against our-ex Mike's king, but Black defended very tenaciously, avoiding plenty of traps and tricks. Then our Mike set up a great redeployment of his queen with Qh3-f1, planning to go to d3 and invade decisively on h7 (rather significantly he also had a bishop on b1!). But in a moment of chess blindness, he then put the queen on the pretty ineffective square g2, when carrying on with his plan would, he told me later, have just won a piece on the spot. So the game carried on ...... and on ..... and on. Our Mike won a pawn, but for some reason then found himself in an opposite bishop ending with just this solitary extra pawn. But whether it was winning or not was immaterial, as our-ex Mike had no time left. And as Coventry don't play with increments, because they have to be out by 10.30, he lost on time at around 10.40.

Phew! A very unconvincing team effort, but somehow - on both nights - we kept our unbeaten records going, so that, including cup matches, our LDCL A team is now Played 10; Won 9; Drawn 1 and our Coventry League team is now Played 10; Won 8; Drawn 2. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

As I'm now running on even emptier than last week, after the latest twofer supplemented by a 4NCL weekend immediately before, it's only right that we have another version of Jackson's brilliant mini-autobiography in song. After last week's 1978 full on rock interpretation, here's a totally different, but equally spellbinding, pared down acoustic version from 2006.  Totally mesmerising. And 10 bonus points for anyone who can tell me which LDCL Div 1 stalwart (not KCC), slide guitar player extraordinaire David Lindley reminds me of!

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

A moral dilemma

Whilst we wait for Mark's no doubt upcoming double match report, I thought I would raise a question about a game I played yesterday (for a non-Kenilworth club I hasten to add, though I hope I'll be forgiven for that). The scoresheet up until people had too little time to record is below, but the game itself is of less interest than the final couple of minutes - suffice to say I got slowly outplayed throughout the game, until we ended up in an endgame which white is going to win, but will take a decent number of moves to do so (rook, bishop and pawn versus rook and pawn). Also important to note that this game was played with 90 minutes for both sides, and no increment (which is a terrible time control, but that is a different point).

What ultimately happened is my opponent got a decent chunk of the way towards winning, but then contrived to lose on time, and my questions are twofold:

1) Should I have let him? In principle, I could have offered a draw when he got down to a few seconds, since I'm clearly never going to win by any other means. I think probably there is something of a consensus in the community about this, namely that since my opponent is in a much stronger position I shouldn't be offering him draws, and it is his responsibility to do so when he decides he doesn't have enough time to win. You could definitely make arguments against that, but I think probably most people would say that is the correct approach.

2) The more interesting question then seems to be what should I do if he offers me a draw with a few seconds left. The extra context is that if we win this game we win the match, whilst if I lose or draw we lose the match, so in principle I can just decline the draw, shuffle a few more moves and unless he finds a way to force my rook off I will win on time, but is that an acceptable thing to do? I don't know what the result would be decided as if he formally claimed a draw under the quickplay finish rules - seems a situation that is right on the borderline of whether it would be declared a draw or not. I think probably I would have accepted a draw, even if he was just about to lose on time, given the position, but in a team match would that have been the correct decision?

Answers on a postcode please, then bring that postcard along then next time I see you and tell me what you have written on it.

Anyway, another glorious high quality victory, and on to the next round (we are still on course to play Kenilworth in the final, if we both win our next matches).

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Another Week, Another Twofer

Tufa: A variety of limestone formed when carbonate minerals precipitate out of ambient temperature water. A relatively soft rock to dig into that subsequently hardens - eg the catacombs of Rome.

Twofer: When a weary/lazy writer produces one article covering two events.

So let's be clear - its the second definition that applies here!

On Monday, the A team had another Leamington League Division 1 match, away at Shirley A. We had our normal top 3 playing, supplemented this week by Jude on Board 4. The match got off to an anticlimactic start, when Joshua's opponent on Board 3 failed to show. Far more excitement was generated on Board 2, where Andrew played another dynamic game against Dave Thomas. For the second week running he allowed a White knight to jump in on e6, and for the second week running he then proceeded to win with very strong attacking play. At a crucial moment I thought Andrew had lost all his marbles, as he played Qxf2+, when a White rook was sitting on f1. Amazingly Dave didn't take it, and the reason became clear when after his move Kh1, Andrew played Rxf1 mate. Yes, the White rook on f1 had been pinned by a Black rook on a1, which I had just assumed was a White rook! In my defence, it is very, very difficult to tell the pieces in Shirley's sets apart.

I took this as the signal to offer Phil Purcell a draw on Board 1. The position was almost dead equal, but if anyone had a slight edge it wasn't me. But having lost the last three encounters to me, he decided this was no time to get too ambitious, and agreed the draw which secured the match for us. This left Jude battling away against Keith Ingram - and a near 70 year age difference! \It was very complicated stuff. Jude sacked an exchange for a pawn and a strong bishop pair and then it came down to queen, rook and 3 v queen, bishop and 4. I missed the end, but at some point Jude won the exchange back and then managed to win the subsequent queen ending, to give us a 3.5-0.5 victory. As they say in Wales, tidy!

The next night, our Coventry League team, also topping Division 1, was in action, against our nearest pursuers, Nuneaton A. A tough and intense evening of chess followed, at the end of which honours were even and we had maintained our one point advantage in the table. Mike finished first, drawing on Board 3 against Paul Davies, and then we struck the first blow with Andrew winning on top board against Phil Briggs after a slightly strange encounter. First Andrew won a pawn. Then he won another. Then Phil threw a piece into the fray, but once Andrew - eventually - managed to castle, it was White with all the attack and the game was soon over.

I had a very tense game against Tony Green on Board 2. An early queen exchange took the heat out of the position, but it was quite a struggle for both of us to find the best way to place the remaining pieces. Eventually we each decided that neither of us were going anywhere, and agreed to the draw. This meant we couldn't lose, but unfortunately also that we wouldn't win, as Ben was suffering against Colin Green on Board 4. Colin played an excellent squeeze with the Advance Variation against Ben's French and eventually loosened the Black position so that a couple of pawns fell off. He then made no mistake in the ensuing same colour bishop ending to tie the match 2-2 - the same score as in our pre-Xmas encounter, confirming that the two teams are very evenly matched. With Warwick University A only a further point back - and still to play both the teams above them - it is still a three horse race for the title.

Unbelievably we are now set for our fourth consecutive Monday/Tuesday night double header, so you can certainly expect another twofer next week. Unless I'm so exhausted I decide on a noughtfer instead. Which is quite possible, because I'm already Running On Empty. Talking of which, here's an absolutely epic version. Over to you, Jackson!

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

A Twofer

Yes indeed, two match reports for the price of one - or more realistically a symptom of my blog weariness as the matches come thick and fast. Which does not bode well when there is another A team/Cov League double header next Monday and Tuesday!

Anyway, weary or not, there can be no way that the bi-annual Kenilworth A v Kenilworth B slug-fest can go undocumented. Especially as the encounter earlier in the season had seen the B team cause a major shock by drawing 2-2 and taking the only point dropped by the A team so far. Thankfully (and I'm thinking of the club as a whole here, not just my own self-interests as A team captain!) lightning did not strike twice, as the A team ran out 4-0 winners - though quite frankly how this scoreline occurred is a complete mystery.

Let battle commence! A team on left (Jude, Joshua, Andrew, Mark) and B team on right (Bernard, Ben, Phil and Mike - who can already not bear to watch!)

The only result that seemed never to be in doubt occurred on Board 3, where Joshua put Ben's king in all kinds of difficulties with a massive attack (fear not, there will be no Massive Attack soundtrack to accompany this report!) which won decisive material. A cathartic moment for Joshua after his disaster against Phil in the last A v B match. But everywhere else it was all to play for. Bernard played very well indeed in the nightmare pairing against Jude on Board 4, where his overwhelming advantages in height, reach, weight and drinking capacity failed to come into play. My infrequent glimpses told me Jude was starting to get on top in the early middle game, but then somehow had a pawn less without any clear compensation and was also getting into big time trouble. The game resolved itself with a cry of anguish from Bernard as he contrived to walk into a mating net with Jude down to seconds. Phew!

I was watching on closely as Phil and Andrew did battle on Board 2. Phil got a knight to e6 winning an exchange - but Andrew had allowed this and threw in a pawn sac to boot to rupture the White kingside. There was positional compensation, and although Phil managed to ward off a mating attack by returning the exchange, the momentum - and clock advantage - was all with Andrew and he also collected the full point after a very exciting game which was to the credit of both players.

Far less exciting was my game against Mike on Board 1. The position oscillated between a slight edge for me and dead level - but with the difference that it was only me that had any real chances, Black was always playing to hold the balance. It seemed as though Mike had successfully defended until, deep into a rook ending, he missed his one chance to become active by giving up a pawn (which should have drawn) and by staying passive couldn't stop my rook and king combining to make a decisive breakthrough. A very tough - and largely well played - game.

Which brings me on to last night, and our Coventry League Division 1 home match against Warwick Uni B. Of course, its anybody's guess who will turn out for any Uni team - they have so many players that its pot luck who turns up on the night. Thankfully we were just able to edge our way to a 2.5-1.5 victory.

In contrast to the previous night, I was first to finish against Joshua Simpson, who didn't help his cause by putting a knight en prise on move 11. I hardly played the most precise moves thereafter, but it was impossible to lose with an extra piece and shortly after I annexed a second piece Joshua resigned. Mike then drew a very exciting game on Board 3 against Oscar Butler. Regrettably, he missed a clear win right out of the opening, and despite going all in for an attack against White's long castled king he could only find perpetual check. A difficult couple of nights for Mike, who had also let a half point slip away against me the evening before.

Ben wrapped up the match by winning against Joshua Bugg on Board 4 (yes - 2 Joshuas in the Uni team! As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.) I looked at the game just as Ben's knight forked the Black rooks, and he soon made the extra exchange count in the ensuing ending. Which was just as well, as Andrew was having a tough time against Santiago German on top board, where his Kalashnikov was firing only blanks. I couldn't bear to watch any longer when White's queen and rook lined up to threaten mate on h8, and in staving off the attack Andrew ended up a rook down and a frantic counter attack just failed to rescue matters. What is it with the University and Andrew? He wins against everyone else, but seems to find these students a bit of a problem.

Still, two nights and two wins (from an A team perspective!) which mean we stay top of both the Leamington and Coventry Leagues for another week. Lets hope we can say the same this time next week, after we have been in action again in both leagues.

A tenuous link for this week's musical interlude. But in a week when two wins were better than one, how about a bit of Bruce? Any excuse will do, after all!

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

If its Tuesday, Joshua must be the Enemy!

On Monday, against Stratford, Joshua was one of us, but the very next day he was one of them. Oh, the joys of different leagues and multiple club affiliations. But we'll let him off because - (a) we all love him dearly and (b) he did the decent thing and lost!

With Andrew now in the team to play Board 1, the world was spared another Page v Pink encounter, and Paterson v Pink was almost certainly far more entertaining anyway. Andrew burped the b7 pawn early on and unravelled to be a solid pawn up. Joshua looked like he'd landed a clever shot with a pawn sac to win a piece, but there was sting in the tail and a Black piece fell off to restore the balance. When Andrew invaded with doubled rooks on the 7th rank it was all over.

Bernard, deputising for a jet-lagged Ben, had drawn very early on against Dave Filer on Board 4 after a decidedly unexciting - and brief - game. But as he'd given me a lift, I won't hear a word said against him. And its always good to draw with Black according to the Soviet School of Match Captaincy.

Mike played a model game against Warwick Scaife on Board 3, slowly strangling and cramping the Black pieces. A weak Black pawn on c6 and a monster square for a White knight on d6 put the Black position under maximum stress. I didn't see the finish, but as Black was running out of sensible moves its not surprising that Mike found a way to win.

Which left my game against another KCC friend/member, Ed Goodwin, as the last to finish. After seeming to give the dreaded Jobava London System a good going over in the opening, I drifted a bit and out of the blue, Ed imaginatively decided to play the normal h4-h5 and RxN sacrificial combo - when he had no attacking moves with which to follow up. Instead he tried to show that his remaining two knights were a match for Black's extra exchange, and indeed it took a very long time for me to make the extra material count. But after much faffing around by both players, and serious time pressure (with no increment!) I eventually opened things up and when Ed allowed a queen exchange his goose was well and truly cooked.

Can you hear me? Baduur Jobava; Joseph Stalin; Lavrentiy Beria; Katie Melua; Aram Khachaturian; tamar of Georgia; Nona Gaprindashvili; Eduard Shevardnadze; Sopiko Guramishvili - your opening took a hell of a beating!!

So a very welcome 3.5-0.5 victory, which keeps us top of the table for another week. Long may it last! 

And please note that for the rest of the season Joshua is once again, officially, one of us, and should consequently be treated with all due respect! (Exactly in line with my New Year's resolution to stop insulting him on club nights! Which I have regrettably failed to keep for most of January.)

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Cup Fever

After the U-8750 Cup team defied very unhelpful eligibility rules last week to power past Daventry and into a Final against Banbury, it was our Open KO Cup team which took centre stage last night. And the boys didn't let the club down - though some tried quite hard! - as a 4.5-0.5 win over Division 2 Stratford secured us a chance to defend our trophy against Olton or Banbury on Finals night.

Mike was a very convincing winner on Board 5 against Peter Stiff (the man who nearly cost us the league title in 2014 when he beat Phil from a piece down position!), an early pawn sac activating all his pieces for a big attack against White's queenside castled king. Jude played what looked like a model Spanish torture against former Coventry player Sam Cotterill on Board 4. Very positional and very convincing. A really mature performance worthy of an old codger rather than a young whipper-snapper! If I hadn't already used the video of Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch I would have used it now!

Andrew drew against Ben Larkin on Board 2 after Black optimistically sacked an exchange but managed to generate plenty of play. I felt sure we would be winning this board, but as my own game showed, my judgment on the night was pretty poor, and Andrew had to give back the exchange for a drawn ending. I did manage the full point against Richard McNally on Board 1, but I have to admit it was a rather iffy performance, as both players missed quite a few tactics. Its an age thing I guess! In the end I ran my king right up the board to h2 to hide from queen checks, whereupon there was no way for Richard to stop my e pawn queening.

Perceptive readers will have noticed that this review has so far skipped the events on Board 3. Well, I am finding it difficult to explain what happened there, but suffice to say it was a Pink Special! I don't know what went wrong against David Gardiner, but from what already looked to me like a dubious rook and pawn v 2 minor pieces imbalance, the position degenerated to a whole piece down, with two very ineffectual extra pawns as nebulous compensation. On top of this White had a passed pawn on d5 which looked like it would just win the game by itself. Joshua went into trickery overdrive and kept finding resources - not easy when all you've got is one piece against 2! But still all seemed lost - and should have been - but White managed to miss a clear win by delaying pushing his d pawn, and that cost him the game as Joshua somehow got one of his own pawns through to queen. You've got to have sympathy for David, but that was a remarkable comeback by Joshua.

Our U-1600 Cup team have their semi-final next week against Rugby, so there is still every chance that we could be represented in all 3 Cup Finals - and let's rfemember that unlike some teams, none of our sides got a first round bye. That would be one hell of an achievement. Go for it, Kenilworth!

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Here We Go Again

After what seems like a very long mid-winter break, the KCC Coventry League team was back in action last night, as the KO Cup competition started. Once again failing to get one of the numerous byes, we had a first round encounter with Division 3 side, Nuneaton C. This meant a 2.25 points handicap start for our opponents, which left us needing at least a 3.5-0.5 win for us to go through to the Quarter Final.

Its been a long time since I had to make the trip over to Nuneaton, and I can pretty confidently report that it has got even further away from Kenilworth in the last two years. Nevertheless, the old homing instinct kicked in and destination was duly reached without any need for the satnav.

As is to be expected in these circumstances, we massively outgraded our opponents, with a minimum rating gap of 540 points, but as we know from previous experience, the risk of slipping on a banana skin makes these tense encounters, where there is nothing to gain but lots to lose. This time round, I'm pleased to say, we were never in any danger of failing to go through - though there is always that nagging doubt that you are one blunder away from blowing the match.

Ben, who I remember having a torrid time before eventually winning in a similar match in Rugby a few years ago, was this time the first to finish. I only managed one glimpse at his game against Terry Clay and he had won a couple of pawns and had the White king in his sights. It finished very soon after so I assume something major occurred!

We chalked up another Black win when I got the full point against Bernard Visgandis on Board 2. I won a pawn early on, but then - shades of Morecambe and Wise - played the right moves in the wrong order, which should have given back the pawn. Missing this chance, Bernard went wrong and allowed me to win material shortly after, before resigning when a rook down.

Andrew made it 3-0 with a nice finish against Stuart Simpson on Board 1. He'd won a piece very early on for a pawn (or two?) but then produced a nice queen sac combination to deliver mate with two rooks on the back rank.

The match was then closed out by Mike after an interesting game against Jiri Stepan on Board 3. Mike had a slow build up, but after first shattering the Black kingside pawns he was then able to navigate the complications to win lots of material thanks to a killing bishop check on the long diagonal against the Black king which was trapped on h8.

So that was us safely through to the Quarter Final, where we have another away tie against either Coventry B (Div 2) or Coventry F (Div 3). Another battle against the Handicap awaits!

Friday, 7 January 2022

KCC Road Trips - Number 4 - From the Land of 10,000 Lakes to America's Dairyland

Get your motor running, it's time to head out on the highway on the fourth of our KCC road trips, and this time we find ourselves taking some of the less trodden roads from Minnesota (the land of 10,000 lakes) to Wisconsin (America's Dairyland).

We start, fittingly, in the town named after KCC's most eminent literary figure, the best selling author that is Ben Graff. Well, I say "town", but that seems to be a bit of an over-statement, as it is an unincorporated community within Moose Lake Township, and Google Street View shows it to be rather sparsely populated. To say the least! If I were Ben, I'd think I warranted a rather more substantial namesake. One at least on a par with the 237 population Rogers, Ohio! (See Road Trip Number 3). The only claim to fame I can come up with is that it's "only" 124 miles from Hibbing, Minnesota, the childhood home town of the one and only Bob Dylan. Shame Ben's not called Hibbing, as then I would at least have had something interesting to write about!  But its still reason enough for a video of the great man.

A 127 mile/2 hr 15 mins drive from Graff brings us to the metropolis of Donnelly. Not that we are exactly in the big time here, either, but at least it has a population of 234 and since 1965 it has been the venue each August for the Donnelly Threshing Bee. Which looks as though it is rather more interesting than the Kenilworth Lions Show in Abbey Fields! Who doesn't like tractor pulling?

We could almost walk to our next stop in Morris, because its only 8 miles away. A bit like Noah and Patrick in the last instalment, its rather greedy of Will to put in another appearance, as he has already featured in our second Road Trip. The Minnesota version has an impressive population of 5,286, and is home to UMM - the University of Minnesota Morris, which may not be as famous as Harvard or Yale, but does rank in the Top 10 of Forbes' America's Top Colleges. The Wikipedia list of notable people is impressively long, but I've never heard of any of them, so instead I'll just mention the Stevens County Fair, held every August - but obviously not clashing with the Donnelly Threshing Bee!

It's only 43 miles/49 minutes from here to Watson - where we find yet another of our pushier members demanding a second mention in this series. I'm afraid we can only muster a population of 205, so other than telling you that the area code is 320, I really can't find much else to say! So lets head due east, and after 2 hours 20 mins and 124 miles we find ourselves in .... Rogers! What is it with all these KCC chaps demanding multiple mentions in these travelogues, when some of us haven't even managed one appearance?! At least this time, though, we have somewhere more appropriate to the name of the KCC Chairman. Rogers is now home to some 11,200 people, following the annexation of neighbouring Hassan Township in 2012. So when he's not hoovering up accountancy companies, he's annexing whole communities! At 21050 135th Avenue N, you can find the aptly named, from Bernard's perspective, Short or Tall Eatery and Drink Hall. Well, it's 50% aptly named, I suppose! Though I think I would prefer the nearby Clive's Roadhouse, where one wall is covered in classic rock album covers!

It's 196 miles and a 3 hour drive across the state border into Wisconsin to our next port of call in - thank goodness, a new name! - Wood. When the town was established in 1851, a government surveyor reported:- "There is very little good land in this Township. It may be described as second rate!" Sorry, Phil! Don't shoot the messenger. The current population is a mighty (compared to Graff!) 786.

Another 90 miles/1 hour 25 mins sees us arrive in .......... yet another place called ****** Morris! Only 485 souls reside here, and even if I had interesting facts to impart, I wouldn't bother as I'm getting fed up of these repeat attention seekers. But that's moot, anyway, as there is simply nothing for me to write. We are nearing journey's end now, and our next stop after 51 miles/49 mins is ...... yet another place called ****** Seymour!! As a protest I would have just driven right by, but how can you ignore a place (population 3,451) where the number one attraction is The Hamburger Hall of Fame?! Because this is the city where the world's first hamburger was served at the 1885 Seymour Fair by "Hamburger Charlie" Nagreen. Not the most imaginative nickname, but I suppose it does exactly what it says on the tin! Every August (what is it with August in this neck of the woods? Is the area under snow for the other 11??) Seymour holds a Burger Fest, and it was here in 1989, that the world's largest ever hamburger, weighing in at 5,520 pounds, was served. As nobody has ever challenged this record, they content themselves with a Big Burger of only around 190 lbs these days. To me, the most intriguing attraction at Burger Fest is the Ketchup Slide. I'm guessing that you probably shouldn't wear your best suit to this if you plan to give it a go! All this, and Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, is only 15 miles away as well. What more could you want from life?

We now need to gird our loins for one last time and travel the final 150 miles/2 hrs 30 mins due south to Center (population 3.,163). What, has Page gone mad? We don't have - and never have had - any member called Center, but fear not, I am still in possession of some of my marbles. Center (a nice chess related term in itself) just happens to be the location of the former settlement of Fellows. There was a post office here between 1887 and 1902, but that is seemingly the sum total of its history. OK, OK, I know that it's not quite spelled correctly, but given that the Americans can't spell centre properly, how could you expect them to get Fellowes right?  Give me a bit of leeway, here - coming up with this stuff is not as easy as you probably think. And it seems fitting that the start and end points of our latest road trip should have been places that hardly/don't exist!

And there you have it. A 790 mile journey that has taken us 13 hours 28 minutes, plus stops, visiting 9 locations named after KCC members. Tiring stuff - and there's still a whole lot of the USA to explore. Plus the rest of the world! This series could run and run. Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment.